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Our trustees

Maria Ahern

Maria Ahern (Chair)

James, my only child, died in a road accident in August 2014. He was 22.

As I searched for a way to acclimatise to a world without my son in it, I met The Compassionate Friends and quickly formed close and supportive friendships. I was initially asked to help organise a fund raising event for TCF and I was appointed a trustee and Company Secretary in November 2015.

Soon after James died, The James Ahern Foundation was created "Enabling the pursuit of passion". We raise funds and provide grants to help young people achieve their goals - a legacy for a compassionate young man who dedicated so much of his time to helping others.

Working for these two organisations is a rewarding way to honour my son's amazing, but short, life.

I started to write what have become known as "The Jamie Letters". These have become popular, even with people who didn't know James. I talk about him and find ways to include him in every new experience. I believe that we need to dispel the traditional approach to grief and to change common attitudes to bereavement.

Add a busy practice as a barrister and a spot of knitting and playing poker and you have a small picture of the woman who is first, last and foremost, proud to be Jamie's mum.


Sue Hughes (Vice Chair)

Sue Hughes pictureI lost my oldest son Joe, aged 11, in 2008 from a completely unexpected asthma attack. The first couple of years after this happened were the bleakest and most terrifying time that I could have ever imagined. Then I found The Compassionate Friends, and by chatting on their wonderful Forum and attending various TCF events, I found the support and comfort I needed. The friends I made through the organisation held my hand through the journey ahead, and are still with me today.

I became a trustee in December 2012 and am also a local contact, running two groups – one in North West London and one in South Bucks.

I work from home as a science journalist on a medical website, and I have taken on the public relations role for TCF. I have two other sons – Jack and Ben.


Andrew Miller

Andrew Miller QC (Company Secretary)

I lost my son Fabian in a drug-related accident in January 2015. Fabian was only 19 years old. His death was totally unexpected and was one of those tragic accidents of youth that too many parents have to deal with.

It took a few months before I discovered The Compassionate Friends and I started attending TCF meetings about five months after Fabian’s death. I very quickly realised and appreciated the incredible help and comfort that I was able to get from other bereaved parents. Being involved with TCF brought a new form of familiarity and normality in what had quickly become a very unfamiliar and abnormal world.

Shortly thereafter I became involved in fund raising for the TCF concert in London in October 2015. At the end of 2015, following my attendance at the National Gathering, I was co-opted as a Trustee onto the TCF Board.

I am honored to be a trustee of such an amazing charity that has provided me and so many others with so much help and care and which shines a light of hope that we can all carry on our own individual journey. I am committed to spreading the knowledge and work of TCF to both the bereaved and non-bereaved.

I have been a commercial barrister in full time practice in London for 27 years.


Margaret Brearley

Dr Margaret Brearley

Our elder son, Joshua, died suddenly in 2002 aged 20, from SADS. Finding The Compassionate Friends brought gradual solace; we were not alone in our devastating anguish, but part of a huge extended family, united through shared grief. I still attend a wonderful TCF group, help organise the Gathering, and became a Trustee in 2014.

Because I know that friendships with other bereaved parents bring mutual comfort, build our resilience, and create hope, I am passionate about TCF. I also love occasionally to gather many bereaved parents for informal food-filled days in our home.

My background is academic, originally as mediaevalist, later working on Jewish-Christian relations, Roma/Gypsies, Holocaust, genocide; most recently, on therapies for torture survivors, and Richard Wagner’s ‘musical religion’.

Voluntary work has included creating the Kinmos day centre for mentally ill people in Birmingham, running a large ladies’ group supporting vulnerable women and children in Israel, building a school for dalit children in India, and supporting the local hospice and soup kitchen. Marriage to a busy musical surgeon leaves little time for hobbies other than cooking, reading, music and friendship.


Gina Claye

Gina Claye pictureMy elder daughter Nikki, died from suicide in 1987 when she was just 19. TCF was a lifeline. I went on a weekend for Survivors of Suicide and found that I was not alone – it was such a relief to be able to talk to others who had been through the same experience as me. I became involved in various TCF activities including taking part in radio interviews and breakfast TV.

Then in 2003 my son Robin, died from encephalitis aged 32 in Singapore where he was teaching. Because I was now grieving for a child of mine a second time I was able to recognise the stages of grief I was going through and, as a writer of adult and children’s fiction, I was able to express my grief in a bereavement book ‘Don’t Let Them Tell You How to Grieve’ which is now used by CRUSE Bereavement Care.

Since 2013 I have been on the National Gathering Committee and also the editor of “Compassion”, which I enjoy very much, especially the contact with contributors which it affords me.


Jane Harris

Jane Harris pictureI am a senior accredited Individual and Couples Therapist and supervisor with The British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy as well as a staff and student counsellor in a University setting. I am also a member of the National Council for Palliative Care People in Partnership group and a Dying Matters bereavement champion.

My son Josh died in a road traffic accident in 2011 in Vietnam, age 22 at which point his dad Jimmy Edmonds and I created a memorial website which aims to support all bereaved parents and their families.

In 2013 Jimmy, a BAFTA award winning film editor, and I were asked to make a film for The Compassionate Friends which would capture what being a bereaved parent or sibling is like. Say Their Name is the result and it is the only film available in this country made by bereaved parents for bereaved parents and siblings.

As a Trustee I am committed to raising awareness about a parents grief and have given many interviews on radio and TV for TCF. We are presently producing another documentary called The Good Grief Project.


Jen Hughes


Lyndon Hughes

Lyndon Hughes

I lost my son, Gabriel, my only child, when he was 18 years, 3 months and 15 days old. He was at the very start of a wonderful future, but everything stopped one night in September 2012. I was 43 years old when Gabriel was born and I couldn’t believe my luck that I had been blessed with a child at all, let alone such a beautiful child. My relationship with Gabriel’s father had broken up years before, so Gabriel and I were a family of 2, but we were a remarkably strong family and made a marvellous team. I have never resumed my work because it was a job that relied on my voice, my feelings and my intuition and I was unable to function.

I found TCF very early on and started my connection with the charity by reading the leaflets and phoning the helpline. After a few months the time felt right to join the forum and that connection frankly helped keep me alive and it was there, on the forum, that I started to feel the strong bonds with other bereaved parents. I soon had a real need to meet up with ‘my tribe’ at the retreat weekends; and as many have found, other devastated parents quickly become your new family. This is a particular solace for those with limited or spasmodic support elsewhere.

The more I know about TCF the more I admire what it does, what it plans to do and the people who make it happen. Sadly mothers, fathers, siblings and grandparents are joining our ranks all the time; the need will never go away. I hope that as a recently recruited trustee I can be of some service to the charity; it’s vital that it grows and thrives and continues to help in the miraculous and unique way that it does.



Vicky Joseph

Vicky Joseph pictureMy son Guy was killed in a paragliding accident in the Pyrenees on 14 October 2011, just ten days after his 25th birthday. He was the youngest of our three children.

Within months, together with my husband Tony and our two daughters Lauren and Alex, we established Guy’s Trust in his memory. The charity focuses on projects that reflect Guy’s interests, passions and the places in which he spent time. At the time of writing we have built three kindergartens and library in Nepal, two primary schools in Cambodia and funded 16 marine conservation internships in Indonesia.

I had never heard of TCF until a friend introduced me to Margaret Brearley in 2014 and somehow, a few months later, I found myself agreeing to be a trustee! I am committed to trying to make TCF better known and as such, my main role to date has been to deliver this new website.

I qualified as an interior designer and then gained a social science degree. I have spent most of my professional life working in a variety of not-for-profit organisations, including fifteen years running the social action department of the Reform Synagogue Movement. Running Guy’s Trust is now my full-time job.


Dr Nicki Martin

Nicki Martin pictureI am mum to Max, John and Anna, partner to Mike and Professor of Education at a London University. As a trustee I aim to use my research background as helpfully as possible. I’m currently editing a book for medics working with families of terminally ill young adults and I also lecture trainee palliative nurses.

John died of cancer on 12 December 2012, two days before his 26th birthday. He was studying history at Oxford. Max, John’s identical twin, is a contortionist. Anna, younger by 23 months, is a writer. I love all my children in the present tense and I am determined that Max and Anna should not have tragic lives because of what happened to John. We have moved house but reminders of John are everywhere.

When John first died, The Compassionate Friends was the only place I could express feelings which I held in while trying to support other people.

These words by William Wordsworth (a bereaved father) express how I feel - “I loved the Boy with the utmost love of which my soul is capable, and he is taken from me yet in the agony of my spirit in surrendering such a treasure I feel a thousand times richer than if I had never possessed it.”


Nigel Taylor

Nigel Taylor pictureI was co-opted as Trustee in 2013 and am responsible for advising on and monitoring TCF’s finances. I graduated from the London School of Economics in 1984 and qualified as an actuary in 1987. From then until 1999 I was a partner in actuarial firms - first in Clay and Partners and then Lane Clark and Peacock.

In 1999 I left the actuarial world and joined UBS's fund management arm and ultimately headed its UK institutional side, which managed assets for pension funds and charities.

I retired from full time work in 2010 and have worked for a number of charities since then. I am not a bereaved parent but became involved with TCF when I saw the impact of the work the organisation does.


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